Growing Up with Pets Enhances Mental Health

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Researchers reveal that upbringing children in cities without pets, increases their susceptibility to mental illnesses, according to a new study published in May 2018.

Researchers from the University of Ulm in Germany and the University of Colorado Boulder conducted a study, which showed that children raised in a rural environment, surrounded by animals and bacteria-laden dust, have more stress-resilient immune systems and show lower risk of mental illness than pet-free city kids.

The team found that raising kids around pets boosts their mental health. “It has already been very well documented that exposure to pets and rural environments during development is beneficial in terms of reducing risk of asthma and allergies later in life. This study moves the conversation forward by showing for the first time in humans that these same exposures are likely to be important for mental health.” said Christopher Lowry, co-author of the study.

The study included 40 healthy German-based men aged between 20 and 40 years. Half of which grew up on a farm and the other half in a large city without pets.

They were made to give a speech in front of a group and solve difficult math problems while being timed. The team took their blood and saliva samples five minutes before and five, 15, 60, 90 and 120 minutes after the test.

They found that those who grew up in cities had higher levels of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) after the stressful experience, they showed prolonged elevation of interleukin 6, and muted activation of the anti-inflammatory compound interleukin 10. This was closely related to mental disorders and stress.

While on the other hand, people who grew up cities had highly exaggerated induction of the inflammatory immune response to the stressors than people who grew up in rural areas with animals.

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